Progress at last? The US administration says it has taken "significant" steps to reform its cotton subsidies according to the Financial Express. The US has an obligation to do this because its subsidy system was found to be illegal by the World Trade Organisation but it is encouraging to learn that it is not resisting the judgment. Cotton subsidies are among the most pernicious because they have helped America become the world's biggest exporter at the expense of unemployed people in Africa where the climate is well suited to developing this labour-intensive industry.
The Prince of Wales' vision of a countryside producing high-value,
organic food is the right one, according to a new report published by
the Globalization Institute.
It argues that Europe's Common Agriculture Policy far from being the
saviour of the countryside has been an "environmental disaster". It
argues that the CAP imposes costs on taxpayers, consumers, other
industries and the environment - for benefits described as "trivial".
A story from the Times News network published in the Economics Times of India suggests that the US and the EU have pledged to resolve outstanding differences about reducing agriculture subsides - the issue that is holding up the world trade talks - but are still laying down stiff conditions. They want developing countries, especially stronger wants such as India and Brazil, to share the burden.
Sounds reasonable - but of course it is not really a burden since spending less on uneconomic crops (cotton, sugar etc) that could be better grown by poorer countries isn't really a burden because it releases money for richer countries to spend on other things.
Let's hope that the US and the EU are not just shadow boxing and blaming the Third World for their own inability to agree.
I'm not blogging regularly until something substantial happens. It had better be soon. If there is no agreement by the extended deadline of December when World Trade Organisation bigwigs meet in Hong Kong then the whole Doha round of trade negotiations may fall apart.
President Bush, to his credit, has made it very clear that the US would abolish agriculture subsidies if Europe and other protectionists would do the same. Gordon Brown, Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, has said Britain will table to programme for getting rid of subsidies later this year - but he was speaking on behalf of the UK only. Now Tony Blair, Britain's Prime Minister has written in the Financial Times that there is a moral responsibility to remove agriculture subsidies.
But hang on, Tony Blair, while his day job is UK Prime Minister, is also President of the European Commission at the moment. Was he speaking for Europe in the FT. And if not, why not? If Europe and the US declared their willingness to dismantle agriculture subsidies . . surely something would happen.